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stdClass Object ( [ID] => 31952 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2013-09-20 05:41:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-09-20 05:41:59 [post_content] => THE Indian sub-continent is the birthplace of several world religions and home to numerous holy places for Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and others. Whether you have a religious inclination or not, these impressive cities, caves, temples and monuments with their age-old architecture, origins and traditions will help you touch some of the spirituality so inherent in India. Here are some of these sacred sites across the country encompassing a variety of religious traditions.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Varanasi is the most sacred Hindu city in India and one of the world's oldest continually habited cities. According to legend it was founded by the god Shiva. It's location on the banks of the holy river Ganges where Hindus bathe to remit sins attracts thousands of pilgrims, tourists and those that come to die to achieve salvation. Some 50,000 Brahmins live in Varanasi to provide religious services to these people. There are also about 23,000 temples in Varanasi--an astonishing number--but amongst the most sacred is Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Shiva, the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple and the Durga Temple. There are about 84 ghats too where pilgrims descend to the river to wash and seek blessings. Mesmerising at all times, these ghats are where pujas, cremations and bathing go on from dusk til dawn. A dawn boat ride is one of the best ways to explore Varanasi and touch the sacredness without having to dunk yourself in the icy waters themselves. There are dozens of ashrams in Varanasi for those seeking meditation and other courses. Find accommodation in Varanasi to suit your budget on Agoda.com  [caption id="attachment_31955" align="aligncenter" width="654" caption="A boat ride at dawn on the Ganges river. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com"][/caption]
Amritsar, Punjab
The Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) in the northwestern state of Punjab is the most holy shrine for Sikhs, the fifth largest religion in the world. As its name suggests, it is covered in gold, and this reflects quite beautifully in the tank surrounding it known as the Sarovar or Pool of the Nectar of Immortality. The four doors of the temple symbolise its openness to all people and religions and indeed there is a real sense of welcome here. Unlike some other religious monuments, the Sikhs allow anyone to enter the temple regardless of their gender, religion, colour or creed. They do however require you remove your shoes, wash your feet, dress appropriately and not to drink alcohol, smoke, take drugs or eat meat within the compound. Similarly anyone is welcome to eat in the huge kitchens in the same complex that can feed more than 40,000 people a day. They also welcome volunteers to work in the kitchen or help clean the facility - itself an incredible experience. Find accommodation in Amritsar to suit your budget on Agoda.com  [caption id="attachment_31957" align="aligncenter" width="654" caption="A Sikh man enjoying the tranquility of the Golden Temple at sunset. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com"][/caption]
Bodhgaya, Bihar
Two thousand five hundred years ago, the Buddha achieved enlightenment under a bodhi tree in Bodhgaya. Today a descendant of this original tree still lies within the main temple compound of Mahabodhi. There's also a stupa, meditation garden and pond. It's a touristy place these days, and touts are rife so take care, but there are still opportunities to catch the spirit of enlightenment. Nuns and monks may recite prayers around the tree and you are welcome to join them. There are also numerous temples and monasteries around where you can meditate, join courses or even seek accommodation. Find accommodation in Bodhgaya to suit your budget  on Agoda.com [caption id="attachment_31959" align="aligncenter" width="490" caption="Mahabodhi temple. Pic: Cacahuate, Creative Commons."][/caption]
Ajmer, Rajasthan
The most sacred of Muslim holy places in India is the Dargah Shariff, the tomb of Sufi saint Hazat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti. The saint was universally respected by kings and leaders and many paid homage to him and sought his help. His shrine is the main attraction but there are some magnificent monuments here, tombs, courtyards and various representations of Moghul architecture. Find accommodation in Ajmer to suit your budget on Agoda.com 
Kodungaloor, Kerala
It is believed that St Thomas the Apostle arrived in Kodungaloor (also spelt Kodungallur) and built the first Christian church in India there in AD52. The Mar Thoma Church has a picturesque setting by the River Periyar and is today visited by large numbers of pilgrims who come to visit this "cradle of Christianity in India" and to see some relics of St Thomas including the bone of his right arm. The church resembles a mansion of Indo-Persian style. [caption id="attachment_31965" align="aligncenter" width="654" caption="Mar Thoma Church. Pic: meriyatrra.com"][/caption]
Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh
The adopted home of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile has become a pilgrimage centre both for Tibetans, Buddhists and sympathisers. Even those living in Tibet make the dangerous pilgrimage on foot across the mountains into India in hopes of seeing their venerated religious leader. McLeod Ganj is the centre of the Tibetan community. Here there are various Tibetan restaurants (make sure you have at least a few serves of momos, a kind of Tibetan dumpling, and the thukpa soup), hotels and craft shops plus the Tibet Museum, Tibetan Library, Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts and various temples, including the famed Tsuglagkhang Complex which is the monastery of the Dalai Lama. His Holiness gives scheduled public teachings from time to time in Dharamsala or you can request a private audience. Find accommodation in Dharamasala to suit your budget on Agoda.com  [caption id="attachment_31966" align="aligncenter" width="654" caption="Tibetan flag waving in Dharamsala. Pic: J. Miers."][/caption]
Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Maharashtra
These archaeological and World Heritage Sites both situated in the Aurangabad district are only 100km apart and can be easily visited in one day. The Ellora Caves contain an impressive array of Indian rock-cut architecture with Buddhist, Hindu and Jain temples built between the 5th and 10th centuries. The 34 caves are a riot of early Indian wall painting, temples, monasteries, figurines and intricate detailing that is truly impressive.  The nearby Ajanta caves are cut into the side of a cliff in a u-shaped gorge - quite a dramatic setting for the 300 Buddhist caves with their paintings, figures, sculptures, murals and stupas. [caption id="attachment_31958" align="aligncenter" width="654" caption="Ajanta Caves. Pic: Soman, Wikimedia Commons."][/caption]
Kochi, Kerala
The Paradesi Synagogue dates back to 1568 was built for the Jewish community of the city. Today it's still in operation and also open to tourists with an impressive interior featuring Belgian glass chandeliers, hand painted porcelain tiles, an oriental rug and a wonderful 18th Century clock tower. It's located down an atmospheric lane in old Kochi with furniture stores, spices and other gift shops that are all worth a wander too. Find accommodation in Kerala to suit your budget on Agoda.com [caption id="attachment_31961" align="aligncenter" width="436" caption="Paradesi synagogue, Kochi. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com"][/caption] [post_title] => Holy cow: India's most sacred sites [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => holy-cow-indias-most-sacred-sites [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-11-02 02:54:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-11-02 02:54:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.travelwireasia.com/?p=31952 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )

Holy cow: India’s most sacred sites

Holy cow: India’s most sacred sites
September 20, 2013 - 0 Comments - Jo Lane

THE Indian sub-continent is the birthplace of several world religions and home to numerous holy places for Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and others. Whether you have a religious inclination or not, these impressive cities, caves, temples and monuments with their age-old architecture, origins and traditions will help you touch some of the spirituality so…>

Ashrams, temples and tranquility: Religious tourism in Asia

Ashrams, temples and tranquility: Religious tourism in Asia
June 4, 2013 - 0 Comments - Jo Lane

RELIGIOUS tourism, or faith tourism, is a growing travel market. Holy cities like Mecca, Jerusalem and Varanasi attract huge numbers every year that travel to see various religious sites, while others travel to places for reasons of pilgrimage, as missionaries, for fellowship, to relax, receive teaching or undertake study. According to the World Tourism Organization…>

Thailand: 5 great places to detox after Songkran

Thailand: 5 great places to detox after Songkran
April 11, 2013 - 0 Comments - Casey Hynes

THE time is near, when Thailand’s cities will turn into battlegrounds where locals, ex-pats and backpackers will take to the streets in the most epic waterfight they’ve ever seen. The annual Songkran celebration honoring the Buddhist New Year will be held April 13-15. Those who have braved the festival in the past have described it…>

Malaysia’s most indulgent spas

Malaysia’s most indulgent spas
December 28, 2012 - 1 Comments - Travel Wire Asia

By Lara Dunston NO holiday in the tropics is complete without some pampering spa treatments, especially if you’ve been hiking through jungles and sweating it out wildlife spotting. Malaysia is blessed with beautiful resorts offering up indulgent therapies. Here are my picks for unique, extravagant treatments: Heavenly Spa, Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa, Langkawi Stunningly…>

On acupuncture

On acupuncture
December 20, 2012 - 0 Comments - Chris Backe

OVER the past few months, I’ve had a condition called plantar fascitis (plant-tar fass-sigh-tis) in my feet. It’s basically a pain in the arch of my feet that is most pronounced when I first wake up or after sitting for longer lengths of time. After seeing an ad on Facebook (a great way to find…>

5 great ways to unwind in Malaysia

5 great ways to unwind in Malaysia
December 15, 2012 - 0 Comments - Travel Wire Asia

By Lakshmi Sharath SING with the birds or indulge in a spa – Malaysia is where you need to head for a relaxing holiday Think Malaysia and the images that come to mind are varied and myriad. The skyline dotted with the tallest towers merges with the beautiful beaches and takes you into a world…>

The two top spas for men in Malaysia

The two top spas for men in Malaysia
December 14, 2012 - 0 Comments - Travel Wire Asia

By Caroline Eden Spas are often associated more with women than men – but there’s nothing about fluffy towelling robes, deep tissue massages or anti-ageing facials that are particularly aimed at the fairer sex, so why is it so hard to find male-oriented sanctuaries? After all, hard work, late nights, family commitments and sports all…>

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Fernhills Palace

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Fort Chanwa Luni

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Carlton Plaisance

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Bal Samand Lake Palace

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A lake Palace Retreat

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Balaram Palace

Chitrasani Village, Gujurat, India

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A neo-classical Gujurat palace

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